Virtual Air Guitar  
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Photo of air guitarist

.: History and partners

The Air Guitar project has many different fathers. Certainly the idea of having a playable air guitar is not a new one. But this particular one started some time in 2002, within the ALMA project. ALMA was an EU-funded project with international partners: Milano Polytechnic University, the Acoustics Laboratory and Telecommunications Software and Multimedia Laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology, Erlangen-Nürnberg University, and the Generalmusic company. The project itself contained research on physical sound models, user interfaces for them, and a unified framework for their construction and communication. The project spanned three years, from 2001 to 2004.

In the ALMA project, the role of the Telecommunications Software and Multimedia Laboratory, under the lead of Prof. Tapio Takala, was to develop user interfaces for these virtual instruments. One interface concept was, naturally, an air guitar. The early version was based on an acoustic guitar sound, and played more like a Theremin than a guitar - yet it was still incredibly fun.

At the same time, the Acoustics Laboratory was also developing a version of the air guitar, from the perspective of the sound model. In 2004, the efforts were combined, and development started at TML on a webcam interface for the Stratocaster sound model from Acoustics. The software behind it all was based on the framework developed earlier in the ALMA project.

The Finnish science centre Heureka had already been interested in displaying results of the ALMA project in the Music exhibition that was scheduled to open in March 2005. The Virtual Air Guitar fit this concept perfectly, and the project now had a client as well as another partner. Heureka helped design and construct the physical stage on which the Air Guitar was displayed, and provided the necessary equipment: computer and accessories, camera, TV screen, lights, and a truckload of orange gloves.

After the science centre version was finished, work began on bringing the technology to homes everywhere. Cartes, the Computer Arts centre at Espoo, Finland, funded research for a consumer version for the second half of 2005. Currently, the original development team is starting up a company to bring the air guitar to the consumer market.


List of partners





Image and Sound Processing Group / Milano Polytechnic University


ALMA project lead

Acoustics Laboratory / Helsinki University of Technology

ALMA, webcam air guitar, control sticks air guitar

Sound model, control sticks interface

Telecom. software and Multimedia Laboratory / Helsinki University of Technology


Virtual instrument architecture, input technology, user interface and musical intelligence

Heureka Science Centre

Webcam air guitar

Stage design and construction, exhibition set-up and hosting



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